Sunday, April 20, 2014

Living in the Deception of Palm Sunday Part 2

It's Easter Sunday and as usual, churches are putting their best foot forward and "Christians" are attending the church they attend when they attend church. Facebook is alive with Easter greetings and declarations of joy that Jesus is alive.

Somehow I don't think this was the way it was on the actual day that Jesus appeared as a risen human.

Today's church-goer will sing songs, listen to the best choirs have to offer and sermons prepared by preachers who hope to wow the attendees with novelty and fresh insights. The Christian community will affirm their belief in and gratitude for something they understand to be the resurrection of God's son, Jesus, thus securing their hope in heaven because they can have their sins forgiven- over and over again. Churches will be presenting the idol they call the "resurrection" to religious consumers who choose to accept a superficial theology that does not disrupt their lives.

And I think God's ok with this. Perhaps God even rejoices in this superficiality. It may be a reflection of some of what Jesus taught about different "talents" granted to different people based on their capacities. Some followers will only go so far either by choice or by ignorance.

The story of the resurrection has evolved to conveniently cover what must have been enormously difficult for the people who had waived their palms and shouted their Hosannas just a week earlier. This crowd bought into the deception that Jesus was the king they hoped for and his power and presence would be that which altered their lives in every area of which they were aware.

But there would be no more Palm Sunday Processions for this King- even after he rose from the dead. His appearances after the resurrection were not as attention-getting. It is even written that on more than a few occasions he was not even recognizable to those who had been with him more intimately and regularly than the crowd that flocked to him on that Palm Sunday.

The events that would follow Palm Sunday would challenge beliefs to the core. The crowds were as easily swayed to yell "crucify" as they were "hosanna" within a matter of a few days. They quickly turned from allegiance to a king about whom they had certain beliefs to conspiring to kill someone they had been persuaded was a criminal and seditionist. They weren't open to the possibility that going further than Palm Sunday feel-good followership might include death to belief systems that fed into their all-too-human desires for theological comfort and earthly self-service.

The story we read indicates that Jesus went through his own crisis of belief. He died to his belief that God was present when needed. He was the quintessential example of a bad thing happening to a good person. The followers that remained loyal that day- a paltry few compared to Palm Sunday- no doubt had oodles of questions about who Jesus was and what they had been led to believe. Their own crisis of faith came on the heels of feeling the same celebration that the crowds felt on Palm Sunday.

After Jesus died, the few disciples who huddled together in a safe-house must've thought that when Jesus said, "It is finished", that it meant the dream they had bought into. To them, "it" was done. They might've contemplated going back to religion-as-usual for good Jewish people. What they thought couldn't have been true since what they believed to be true had died. Not only had their Messiah died but they had died as well.

So Easter came to people who had died to their beliefs. God, therefore, resurrected not only Jesus but the followers who had gone through the darkness of doubt and extreme confusion. Resurrection came to people who had no idea what resurrection meant or what it would look like. Perhaps that's why some still doubted, even when they were with the resurrected Lord.

Christianity today lives in the glow of Palm Sunday even thought it thinks its living in the reality of resurrection. We celebrate accepting Jesus as King but choose not to go through the crisis of belief that opens the door for God's resurrecting power.

The level of living that the resurrection calls us to goes beyond superficial church services. It invites us to the abundant life of the Spirit that thrusts believers into an incarnational life, embracing human existence in all of its various forms. It engages us with each other in love and mutual support so that no matter what life dishes out, we face it with the real presence of Christ and not the superficial belief in an idol that will rescue us out of discomfort and confusion.

Ah, the resurrection and the incarnation- together like peas and carrots, like Christmas and Easter.

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